PR and communications firm WSP Inc. Chairman and President Diana V. Lesaca ponders on the impact of COVID-19 not just on the professional aspect but also on a personal level.
It was March 12, 2020 when my routine was disrupted by COVID -19.
The lockdown in our office actually happened a week before it was officially announced in the metro. As of this writing, it has been more than seven months since a “new normal” for corporate life has unfolded.
Today, however, I have become more comfortable with the new ways of working from home, learning and getting good at tech for meetings, kind of accepting the poor internet situation in the country, and managing two offices remotely without ever stopping or closing down operations.
Managing the situation required a series of steps that the teams and I had to work on, and I’m quite sure that most offices had their own version of the same difference with these experiences. The main goal was to look for ways to prevent disrupting the work flow and making the new normal work. And so far, we have been doing it all, as if the world never stopped!
I am taking the situation more lightly now, but the process to get to where we are was quite challenging and highly stressful. In fact, the first one-and-a-half months were not the best time for me – with my mental health, my physical well-being and my eating habits all affected by the uncertainty of the times.
This COVID-19 pandemic became my very own stress point, and I am quite sure that everyone got hit with varying degrees of stress, depending on their level of consciousness. Up to this point, there may be people still suffering. Some may have adjusted but continue to experience sleepless nights and anxieties, or encountering a combination of emotions. There may be a few, though, who are possibly thriving under this situation.
When it comes to stress, I have learned from the books and teachings of Dr. Joe Dispenza – a renowned international lecturer, researcher, corporate consultant, author, and educator who has been invited to speak in more than 33 countries across six continents – that human beings are not designed to make it through extended periods of crisis. He says that “thought alone can trigger the human stress response – and keep it going. And every time we knock the body out of chemical balance, that’s called stress. The stress response is how the body innately responds when it’s knocked out of balance, and what it does to return back to equilibrium.”
Seven months is quite long in my book. And truth be told, even before this, we have already been dealing with our own issues and problems, and this pandemic exacerbated it. The stress level of everyone is likely shooting up – or down – depending on their present level of awareness.
Unfortunately for most people, this prolonged period of stress has become their norm, unable to fully recover from it. Really sad, but true.
I consider myself one of the lucky ones to manage this crisis like a true PR practitioner. Being armed with crisis management know-how has helped me mitigate the effects of COVID-19 in our business operations, bringing about pragmatic solutions to effectively and smoothly run the two agencies (PR and advertising) under my stewardship.
It’s not an easy feat to operate daily, and making major decisions requires inner strength. To function well and be at the top of your game requires you to be at your best. To effectively lead an organization, you must be equipped not only with experience and knowledge but to be virtually “super human” in these challenging times. You must be greater than the constraints of the environment to execute your plans.
On a personal level, I would like to think that I was fortunate to have been trained to handle this kind of crisis head-on with a different skill set. I have been undergoing years of self-discovery and preparation, enabling me to know my authentic self. I believe that there are no accidents and I was just being prepped to handle this as gracefully as I can. What I have learned so far has carried me through these difficult times. Just like in the movies, I had a series of spiritual teachers that over time has allowed me to evolve and expand. And now, the test is to apply that knowledge in this unfolding saga we call COVID-19.
This pandemic is in your face, it is real and is certainly a crisis!
However, I am real, too, and hey, I have been equipped with the tools to navigate this.
So allow me to share the following tips that may help in alleviating the stress and anxiety that everyone is going through at this time. Remember, prolonged stress is not part of our DNA, and if people allow stress to continue, unwanted results like diseases could happen.
Meditation. I started this years ago but became an avid meditator late last year because I signed up to a Dr. Joe Dispenza meditation workshop that was supposed to be held in Singapore this April (which was moved to October and now cancelled). Part of the assignment was to meditate every day, and since then, I have been practicing meditation every day. I do my work seriously and it has become part of my life. Without meditation, my day seems incomplete. And yes, I do wake up early for this and it’s the first thing I do. I meditate for 20-30 minutes or more a day.
This practice helps me set my intentions at the start of the day, which makes me the ultimate deliberate creator. It helps me be aligned and heart-centered, which makes all decision making an inspired action. I never doubt my decisions when I am in the zone.
Meditating helps me be in the moment as often as I can; to be self-aware of my actions and emotions. My emotion is the barometer I use to check my alignment. This helps me navigate my life in general and as far as I know, I am balanced most times.
Be aware of your thoughts. Everything starts with a thought! I have been reminding people that thoughts are very powerful and words have energy. When thoughts are spoken, they usually come into existence especially if there are powerful emotions attached to such thoughts. The more powerful the emotions, the stronger the possibility that it will happen. It’s abracadabra – from the Aramaic phrase avra kehdabra, meaning “I will create as I speak.”
Awareness of your thoughts is quite crucial during this crisis, as this would set the kind of environment you will experience. Positive thoughts generate positive results and vice versa. So don’t bring to existence thoughts that you would not want to happen. If I were you, I’d remain neutral on sensitive issues. And should unwanted thoughts overtake you, sleep or take a nap to reset your mind.
Regulate the way you consume news and stories. During a crisis mode, you cannot help but be glued to the news. For instance, updates, COVID stats, depressing results – all of which can affect your well-being. The news may consume you in the process, which may result in more anxiety. I suggest that when you wake up in the morning, try not to immediately read the news, emails, social media or anything that may affect your day. It is important that you meditate and align first before you go about your day. You see, by being aligned, bad news would have lesser or no impact on you. News is just there to inform you.
Be grateful always. Part of my meditation is a list of things that I am grateful about. With gratitude, the heart opens up to an abundance of experiences that you are grateful about. Gratitude just keeps giving back.
Love, care and compassion for self and others. Less judgement towards yourself and others is the way to go. Each one is going through a journey based on how one designed it, and so wherever this journey takes you, I just want you to remember to be kind and compassionate to yourself and others no matter what the results are. Whatever you experienced is what was meant to happen. Your life is based on how you perceive it, and you don’t need to add to negativity by judging yourself.
I have embraced the pandemic as the catalyst for deepening my self-awareness, resulting in an expanded and evolved version of myself, to be the best expression of what I can be. To be honest, it was really like a reboot and upgrade for me. Hopefully, this, too, would be true with the world.
The pandemic provided an unbelievable respite to give humanity a chance to reflect on the past, to take to heart the now and decide the kind of future we want for us. This is an opportunity for new beginnings, defining what really matters, and creating a better world for us and the generations to come.
About the Writer
Diana V. Lesaca
Diana V. Lesaca is the chairman and president of WSP Inc. and concurrently the CEO of FCB Manila. Her career in the industry spans over two decades in the areas of advertising and public relations, giving her a well-rounded 360 perspective in the realm of communications.
Diana’s dossier lists her work on campaigns for multinational brands. Her expertise has led to roles as a juror for esteemed international industry award-giving bodies such as Spikes Asia and PR Week Asia, and locally for Public Relations Society of the Philippines. An artist at heart with a love for storytelling and a constant thirst for learning, Diana enjoys watching films, and dabbles in art and photography in her spare time.
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